11 November 2009

Execs: Are your readers as loyal as you think?

If your readers can’t access your newspaper content online, don’t be so sure that they will come back to your print product.

That is the stark warning arising from a study by the American Press Institute on the attitudes of newspaper executives to digital content, highlighted by Professor Alfred Hermida on his Reportr.net blog.

According to Professor Hermida, the study (PDF) shows a shocking disconnect between the attitudes of executives and those of readers.

75% of execs thought that readers would return to the print product is they could not access the newspaper content online, in sharp contrast to only 30% of readers who said they would return to print.

68% of readers said they would actually go to other websites if their local newspaper website was no longer available.

The findings are all the more relevant, says Professor Hermida, given the current debate about locking content behind paywalls.

The API study found that nearly 60 percent of execs were considering charging for news, with 25% expected to start doing this in the next six months.

It also gave clear recommendations to execs considering putting content behind such a paywall, saying:

“For paid content to succeed, it must go well beyond repurposed print content and old models. Audiences are most likely to pay for unique content that is not available elsewhere for free. Fully paid blocks of repurposed local area newspaper content have not proven to be a significant revenue source for news websites that have tried this strategy.”

Professor Hermida argues that if a news organisation is going to consider charging for content, it needs to view it from the perspective of the audience.

The value of news and information is not determined by execs in a newsroom/boardroom, says Professor Hermida, rather, the value is determined by the audience.

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